Understanding Bipolar Disorder
How to Explain Bipolar Disorder to Others
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may be wondering how you will explain it to others. Although it can be hard to speak out about mental illness, a lack of understanding and social support can make dealing with bipolar disorder much more challenging. You can start by explaining the basics of your mood changes and your official diagnosis. Work to dispel any misconceptions loved ones may have. Be specific about the support necessary to managing the disorder. Keep in mind who you are describing the condition to and the purpose of the explanation. Your approach may vary whether you are describing the condition to an employer, family member, friend, or teacher. Whether you want to spread awareness, find support, or qualify for accommodations at work or school may also affect how you form your explanation.
Explaining the Basics of Bipolar Disorder
Introduce bipolar disorder by explaining intense moods.Bipolar disorder is characterized by intense mood swings. If someone has never heard of bipolar disorder, they may be confused as to how it affects someone. To start off explaining the basics, begin by letting them know bipolar patients experience intense moods.
- Say something like, "Bipolar disorder results in intense shifts in moods. While everyone has their highs and lows, bipolar people tend to experience these more intensely and have more extreme highs and lows than those without the disease."
- You can then briefly explain mania and depression. For example, say, "People with bipolar disorder experience low moods called depression as well as high moods called mania."
- It may be helpful to send a guide to bipolar disorder to your family and friends so that they can read up on it as well. The is a useful place to begin.
Describe the depressive aspect of bipolar disorder.Bipolar disorder is marked by periods of depression. Everyone's depression manifests in different ways, so be clear about how your depression specifically shows itself. You should also let people know how often you experience depression and how long the periods last. If you are explaining someone else's bipolar disorder, make sure you know their specific experiences with depression. For example, if a child has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you may need to explain to teachers, friends, and family members.
- For example, say something like, "My depressive spells usually last a couple of weeks. I tend to feel very tired and I'm not really interested in leaving my house much." If you're talking about someone else, you could say, "He is usually very slowed down during depressive spells and may not be as social."
- Try to explain how depression differs from regular sadness. For example, "Everyone gets sad, but with clinical depression you can't snap out of it. It's hard to distract yourself from bad feelings."
Go over mania.Mania is marked by very high moods that go on for a number of days or weeks. Explain your experience with mania, how often manic spells occur, and what kinds of behaviors in you engage in. If you're explaining bipolar disorder to someone else, make sure you know that person's experiences with mania.
- Say something like, "I don't feel manic as often as I feel depressed, but when my manic spells come they last about a week." When explaining for someone else, you can say something like, "She can be very talkative in her manic episodes, and sometimes a little hyperactive."
- Explain the behaviors you engage in. For example, say something like, "I tend to need less sleep and have trouble concentrating. My thoughts get out of control and I'm unable to focus on one thing." If you're explaining for someone else, let someone know any specific behaviors to expect from that person. For example, "He tends to struggle to focus on schoolwork when he's manic and can be somewhat disruptive."
Explain your specific diagnosis.There are varying levels of bipolar disorder. When explaining bipolar disorder to a loved one, make sure they know your specific diagnosis. If you're explaining someone else's bipolar disorder, make sure you know that person's diagnosis.
- Bipolar I Disorder is marked by more intense manic and depressive episodes that last for longer periods and may require hospitalization. When explaining Bipolar I Disorder, say something like, "My episodes can be very intense and I've been hospitalized in the past. Episodes tend to last between seven days and two weeks."
- Bipolar II Disorder is marked by depressive episodes, but less intense manic episodes called hypomania. Say something like, "She experiences hypomania at times, which is less intense than full-blown mania. While my child has extreme highs, she can usually still sleep and mostly manage day-to-day things."
Talk about how you manage symptoms.Tell family and friends that you are doing all that you can to manage your symptoms. Let them know your specific care plan, or the specific care plan of someone else's care plan.
- Explain any medications being used to treat bipolar disorder. For example, "I'm on a mood stabilizer that I have to take every day" or "My son has mood stabilizers he takes for the disorder."
- If you're in therapy, let the person know. Say something like, "I attend therapy every week too to talk over my moods with a counselor."
Make sure people know bipolar disorder is real.Unfortunately, there are still people who doubt mental illness and mental health diagnoses. Make sure you let people know bipolar disorder is as real illness. If someone questions a diagnosis, or makes a comment questioning mental illness in general, speak up. Say something like, "Bipolar disorder has been around for a long time. While it was called different things throughout history, it's always been a valid diagnosis."
- It can also help to let the person know you can't just "snap out of it." Say something like, "The difference between Bipolar Disorder and just being sad and being happy is that I can't really control my moods. I can't just cheer up or calm down when I need to."
Let people know people with bipolar disorder are capable.There is still a lot of stigma around Bipolar Disorder. Many people assume those with the disorder are unable to live normal lives. Let people know this is not the case. If someone, for example, feels you can't handle a task at work due to your disorder, let them know this is not the case. Say something like, "Even though I struggle with this disorder, I work hard to make sure I can still day to day activities. It doesn't mean I can't do things everyone else can."
- You should also speak up if someone says another person cannot due something due to a Bipolar diagnosis. For example, if someone mentions they're not sure a colleague with bipolar disorder is up to a task, say something like, "Actually, most people with Bipolar Disorder are capable when symptoms are managed."
- If you are taking treatment that effectively manages symptoms, mention this. Say something like, "I have medication that really helps control my moods. Even though the disorder is difficult at times, it's not a hopeless situation."
- It may be helpful to compare Bipolar Disorder to a medical ailment. For example, "It's like if someone has diabetes. While they have to be careful and manage their symptoms, with the right care they are able to engage in most activities without trouble."
Dispel misconceptions about medication.Many people have negative feelings about medication. They may think it changes a person fundamentally or makes someone numb or robotic. While it can take awhile to find the right medication, medication is helpful when you're taking the right dosage.
- Say something like, "People do have bad experiences with medication while finding the right treatment. I was on things that made me feel different or numb, but I worked with my doctor to find the right medication."
- Explain how the medication helps you. Say something like, "Now that I'm on the right meds, I feel fine. My moods are more stable, but I'm still able to experience normal highs and lows and I don't feel like they affect my overall personality."
Explain why therapy is important.Many people think therapy is self-indulgent or unhelpful. Let people know many people benefit from therapy. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness.
- It can help to compare Bipolar Disorder to a medical condition. For example, say something like, "If you had a chronic heart condition, you would need to see a doctor regularly. Because I have a chronic mental health condition, I do need to see a therapist."
Asking for Support
Ask that friend and family members educate themselves.You have already taken the first step by explaining to your friends and family the basics of bipolar disorder. Now, encourage friends and family to take the extra step and thoroughly research your disorder on their own time. Ask them to read more on the disorder to help them understand it better.
- Encourage them to look at websites like the International Bipolar Foundation, which provide helpful information online.
- Additionally, if you are comfortable with it, suggest that they come to appointments with you. Speaking directly to the doctor about any questions or concerns can help them broaden their understanding of bipolar disorder.
Ask for social support.People who are feeling depressed sometimes isolate themselves. Let people know what they can do if you're struggling with a depressive episode at any point. Say something like, "Sometimes when I'm depressed I need extra social support. I would appreciate it if you could be there for me when I'm feeling down."
- People are often unsure what to do when someone is depressed. Let people know what you need specifically. For example, say something like, "I don't need to be coddled or talk about how I'm feeling a lot. Just having someone around to distract me is helpful. We could just watch a movie together."
Discuss your symptoms with family and friends.You want people to understand the warning signs that you're experiencing mania and depression. This can help them identify when you may need extra support. Begin with something like, "There are some signs I'm experiencing mania or depression that I think you should know about."
- To explain depression, say something like, "If I seem really quiet and disinterested in social events, I may be experiencing depression."
- To explain mania, say something like, "If I seem really energetic and unusually talkative, I may be going into a manic episode."
Talk about the importance of stress reduction.Stress can worsen Bipolar Disorder, so let people know when you need a low-stress environment. For example, say something like, "When I'm depressed, I can't handle a lot of stress. Don't feel like I'm being rude if I cancel plans more frequently. Even small things, like going to see a movie, can cause me a lot of stress."
Request they support any restrictions on your lifestyle.Many people with Bipolar Disorder have certain restrictions. You may have to stay away from alcohol or certain foods, for example, due to medication. Let people know how they can support your lifestyle restrictions.
- For example, say something like, "Alcohol tends to make my depression worse, so I don't drink. I would appreciate it if you didn't invite me out to bars, because I tend to feel left out when other people are drinking."
QuestionIs Bipolar 2 a mental illness?
Licensed Professional CounselorLicensed Professional CounselorExpert AnswerBipolar 2 disorder is a mental illness similar to bipolar, but the manic cycles are less severe and characterized as hypomanic. To meet criteria for bipolar 2, a person will have had multiple depressive cycles and at least one hypomanic cycle. Therefore, people with bipolar 2 experience depressive cycles more than manic cycles.Thanks!
QuestionWhat does it mean for a person to be bipolar?
Licensed Professional CounselorLicensed Professional CounselorExpert AnswerWhen someone has a bipolar disorder, it means they experience cyclic episodes of severe depression and mania. The episodes last for up to 2 weeks followed by a period of normalcy.Thanks!
QuestionWhy do people get bipolar?
Licensed Professional CounselorLicensed Professional CounselorExpert AnswerThe exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown, but research suggests biological and environmental factors influence whether a person develops it.Thanks!
QuestionWhat are the characteristics of a bipolar person?
Licensed Professional CounselorLicensed Professional CounselorExpert AnswerFirst, mood swings do not mean someone has bipolar disorder. A person who struggles with bipolar disorder will have marked episodes of severe depression and marked episodes of mania. Marked episodes mean they last for up to 2 weeks followed by a period of normalcy for each cycle and significantly interfere with daily functioning. Manic episodes often include hallucinations and delusions.Thanks!
QuestionI am a kid. I think I have bipolar depression, but I am too scared to tell. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt can be difficult to reveal extremely personal things about ourselves to others, but don't be afraid to talk to an adult you trust about it. This could be your parents, an aunt or uncle with whom you're close, or a school counselor. Clinical depression is caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, medication can help you feel better. There's no reason to feel shame about this; it's an illness, not a weakness.Thanks!
Video: Understanding Bipolar Depression
Romantic DIY Lace-Trimmed Top Makeover
One-Pot Chicken Breasts in Chinese Brown Sauce
How to Get a Carfax for Free
Storing Plastic Wrap in the Freezer Makes It WAY Easier to Handle
How to Use Switchwords to Clear Negative Thoughts
Dead rat allegedly found in Chick-fil-A sandwich
Autumn’s Favorite Color Story Is 50 Shades ofTurquoise
The Romantic Side of Hair: Valentine’s Day Hairstyles
News: Kim Kardashians Unlikely New Gig Holiday Party MakeupMistakes
What REALLY Causes Stretch Marks
How to Bake Turkey Bacon
3 Ways to Feel Good